Carson Wentz Enters Year Two with New Weapons on Offense
Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith add to Eagles passing attack.
SOUTH PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Philadelphia Eagles) — The second time around, as Carson Wentz is learning, means a great deal. The Eagles’ quarterback is the Eagles’ starting quarterback in his second NFL season, and nobody disputes that. So everything is different for The Franchise, as he acknowledged on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.
“For me mentally, the way I approach it, it’s not so much of a whirlwind,” Wentz said. “This summer, I was like chomping at the bit to get back here. Last summer, I was just trying to breathe. It was such a whirlwind offseason. Mentally, I’m in a way better place. I come in and I know what to expect. I know the routine and so for me mentally it’s been a lot better for me, for sure.”
Let’s recount the offseason for Wentz, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016. After throwing a record 607 passes as a rookie, Wentz made the rounds at the Super Bowl, then had a looooong layoff that no doubt included daily hunting excursions and strength and conditioning drills that he had never before had time to accomplish.
There was a trip to Southern California to work with a noted quarterback mechanics coach, and that was about all the throwing Wentz did until the Organized Team Activities began.
Mixed in with the football was an eye-opening trip to Haiti, the opening of his AO1 Foundation, and a visit from his wide receivers to Fargo, North Dakota for some pre-Training Camp bonding on and off the football field.
“It was really good,” said Wentz, who hosted the group of eight players at North Dakota State’s football facilities and then enjoyed some golf and good eats and drinks, “to get that bonding time both on the field and off the field.”
And now he’s at the NovaCare Complex early among a group of four quarterbacks taking reps in the early portion of camp (there are 34 players here). The veterans report on Wednesday and the entire team takes to the field on Thursday for a 10/10/10 practice.
That’s when things ramp up to 120 miles per hour. That’s when the fun starts. It’s also when Wentz throws to Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews instead of rookies still trying to get to the right spots in the pass routes.
In Jeffery, Wentz has his big target, his proven receiver, and someone who is here on a one-year contract and loaded with motivation. With Jeffery’s long arms and ability to go up and get the football, Wentz knows his window through which to throw is bigger. Jeffery is going to make tough catches. He’s going to command attention from defensive backs. And that should open things up for Smith, who is the deep threat in a passing game that ranked tied for 28th in the NFL last season with only 39 passing plays of 20-plus yards. The wide receivers accounted for 1,849 receiving yards, ranking 31st in the league.
Everything has changed for Wentz, and around him.
“He’s got more confidence. You can see that when he drops back. He knows what we’re doing offensively and you see that when he’s got the ball in his hands,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “There’s a difference when we look at him from last year to now. Carson has grown a lot. He’s got 16 starts under his belt. That’s big. It’s the second time around for him so he knows what to expect. He’ll get his reps and he will improve every day.”
There isn’t a whole lot to monitor with Wentz, who is healthy and looking forward to the marathon ahead. There are plenty of reps to go around with four quarterbacks in camp, so overthrowing isn’t a worry. Wentz has the offense down, and he’s got a terrific offensive line in front of him and weapons around him.
This is Year 2, so the big jump is expected from an extremely promising rookie campaign.
“I think everybody expects that, not just for Carson but for our entire offense,” Pederson said.
The crucial next steps for Wentz and the offense are to get everyone on the same page and to have each player understand the nuances of the scheme and to relate to each other and to build chemistry. It really, at this point, comes down to the little things. Wentz is the total package, so all he needs is more reps, more experience. Nobody is looking ahead to the regular season, not with six weeks of Training Camp practices, four preseason games, and a few days of practice with the Miami Dolphins on the agenda.
Last year’s experience, in the end, was good for Wentz. He didn’t have the luxury of sitting back and learning slowly. He was thrown right into the action. He learned. He’s better for it.
And now things are slowing down.
“I think it’s just continuing to build, continuing to build that chemistry,” Wentz said. “We’ve got a couple of new pieces and we’ve been working together in the offseason, OTAs, the whole nine yards. Just continually build that chemistry, that camaraderie, just being sharp in everything. Finding checkdowns, finding little things. Details are the biggest thing we want to refine.
“You’re never a finished product, that’s for sure.”